Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gray-collared Becard!!

Apologies for this untimely interruption of my story, but I HAVE A RARE BIRD TO REPORT!! 

Ok, ok. I'm serious now.  This morning, I was sitting at home puttering around the computer when the phone rang.  I answered. The voice on the other end sounded excited.  
"Chris? Yea, this is P.D. Hulce.  Three people walked into the research station this morning and showed me some photos of what I'm pretty sure is a Gray-collared Becard. I believe it would be a first US record."  I sat silent for a second. The I said "How long ago?"   "About an hour. I'm leaving the station in about 5 minutes." I said "I'm heading out now. See you up there."  
I was out the door a minute later.  When I arrived 5 minutes later, P.D. and Bob Weaver were already there looking for it.  Bob was at the bridge and P.D. was farther up the canyon. I decided to walk down from the bridge since there was nobody there.  As I walked, I remembered Dave Jasper saying something about birds liking to hang out around the only Chinese Elm tree in the entire canyon. As I walked by the tree, I heard the Becard call. I found it a second later. Sitting right at the top of the tree.  I yelled to Bob and P.D. and they came running.  The bird gave us spectacular views for about 15 minutes before it flew down the canyon. The last I saw of it was it's tail as it disappeared through the trees.  It was my 550th life bird and the first of it's family that I've ever seen. 

There will be around 150 people in the canyon on Sat morning. We'll know by tomorrow if the bird is still around.  Here are some more photos of the bird: 

Before I walked out the door, I posted on my Facebook Status update that there was a Gray-collared Becard up south fork.  I found out later that Chris Benesh (who is currently in Anchorage, AK) read my update, and posted the possible Becard to the AZ-NM bird listserve.  To my knowledge, that is the first time that word about a rare bird spread to a listserve from Facebook!  Don't you just love instant communication? :D 

Tomorrow, I go to track down another ABA rarity. Wish me luck! 

Til next time, Happy Birding! 


Anonymous said...

the bird looks pretty ratty...tail and wings are consitent with the look of a caged bird...are there records of gray-collared becards being caged?

Dawn Fine said...

OMG..I was just asking in your last post if you saw the Rose-throated becard..
this is amazing ..and I am wishing I was there now..
I am sure people are flying in from far and wide to add this bird to their life list!
Take photos of the crowds!
will have to wait until next spring?
What canyon did you see the bird in?

Bob Weaver said...

this is my third year volunteering at SWRS, coming from Newport, R.I. its always a great time, and seeing the Becard yesterday with yourself, and P.D., made my last week here one i won't forget, also got some photos, not as good as yours, but confirms bird's identity.

My last great life bird was when the Red-Footed Falcon showed up on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. a few years ago, and i jumped on a high speed ferry ride to the island, and was rewarded with another first U.S. record, great birding with you, keep in touch. On the 10th i go to Tucson for six days before heading home, you have my card & email address,

Bob Weaver

Anonymous said...

am i seeing this wrong, or is this bird showing classic signs of cage wear...
i don't this this should be overlooked just to add a bird to the state list. careful consideration should be had prior to any acceptance of this bird.

the tips of the tail and certain wing feathers look pretty beat up for a true vagrant.

Pat O'Donnell said...

Good bird! Although widespread in Mexico, it's uncommon throughout it's range. Could it have been a cagebird? Considering the location (fairly unpopulated area and not too far from range of this species)I think it's more likely that this bird is of wild origen. Although there are probably a few in cages here and there in Mexico (out of 1000s of individuals of other species), in my experience this is NOT a species commonly found in cages.

Anonymous said...

i would like to think i's a true's just that the tips of many of the feathers appear in the p[hotos to be badly damaged.
i can't imagine how this would occur other than being in captivity. it could be molting, as many feathers are of varying lenghts... i doubt that it's remote location would be a factor, considering the number of birders and the like that visit.
plus, douglas could be a source for such bird is definitely worth considering.
great bird, nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that the obvious feather damage screamed "cage bird" as soon as I saw the photos.

Chris W said...

Hey everyone,

I appreciate your comments and concerns. I ran this idea past Kenn Kaufman, Mark Peterson, Michael Moore and a number of other people who have extensive experience with Becards. They were all of the opinion that this is NOT in any way a cage bird.
The feather damage you mention is quite clearly restricted mostly to the coverts rather than the actual feathers. Very typical of a bird that hasn't quite molted yet or is in the process of molting.
Becards are rather strict insectivores and do not make good cage birds at all. The demand for such a species is quite low and really doesn't make it worth even capturing this species. The nearest town to Cave Creek is Douglas, AZ. Douglas is not a large trade town and even the trade of cage birds is rare there. The likelihood that this is a cage bird? Almost nil. The report along with the photos will most likely be accepted by the AZBRC and the ABA as a first US record of this species. Even if it was once in a cage, it was definitely not raised in a cage and therefore is still a wild bird and fully countable.

Btw, for those of you who are trying to discount this bird just because you didn't see it, you might have better luck with the Sand-plover that showed up in FL a couple weeks back. The Atlantic Ocean is a huge body of water to cross without resting somewhere along the way.

Paul Conover said...

I don't know anything about the status of this bird and I couldn't care less whether it's countable or not, but I disagree that the feather damage is limited mostly to coverts. The secondaries look misplaced and some look really frazzled or maybe broken. The tail tips looks chewed up, as well.

The coverts don't look that bad to me, at all.

Anonymous said...

These birds are very pretty yo look!!
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